Almost every home with a basement has a sump pump, and for good reason. In the event of a flood, severe rainstorm, or water leak, there’s a strong possibility that water will accumulate in the lowest part of your home (aka the basement). While your basement undoubtedly has a floor drain, this drain may not be capable of removing water without the benefit of a pump…or, more precisely, a sump pump.
Therefore, a sump pump is a critical system. If the pump fails or becomes disabled for some reason, the basement of your home can flood. Flood damage is incredibly expensive and time consuming to repair, not to mention that a flooded basement becomes unusable for at least a few days and sometimes a few months until repairs are complete.
Because sump pumps are so critical, and because power failures seem to go hand-in-hand with flooding and severe weather, many homeowners invest in battery-powered sump pump backup systems. These systems can be divided into two main categories:
- Redundant systems which have a “helper” sump-pump powered by a battery pack
- Battery backup systems that keep the sump pump running when the power goes out
Helper Sump Pumps with Battery Backups – Pros and Cons
The first type of sump battery backup is essentially a small pump installed right beside the main pump in the sump pit. The smaller pump is fitted with an independent float sensor that mounts above that of the primary sump pump. A time-tested design, this helper sump pump also comes with its own battery backup system. The helper pump is activated when either a) the primary pump has failed or b) the amount of water exceeds the capacity of the primary pump.
A helper backup sump pump like this one adds great redundancy to an already-installed pump system, making it an excellent investment if your home is inundated with water. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the secondary pump is not intended to pump the same amount of water as the primary sump pump. The helper pump is just designed to help – it’s not nearly as capable as your existing sump pump.
The downside to these helper pump systems: If the electrical grid fails, the reduced capability of these helper pump systems can lead to flooding. The reason? If the power is out, the primary sump pump is off. This means the helper pump has to try and clear the water in the sump pit all by itself, something it likely is not designed to do.
Considering that the electrical grid often fails during floods and heavy storms, this is a major concern…especially when consider that most of these helper pump systems have limited battery life. Still, in situations where the power grid is up, the helper sump pump system is a great asset for any homeowner.
Sump Pump Battery Backup Systems – Pros and Cons
A different philosophy guides sump pump battery backup systems. Rather than trying to help the primary pump do its job – or providing limited capabilities if/when the power fails – a battery backup system is designed to keep your primary sump pump running at full capacity during a power failure. The battery backup sits between your sump pump and the electrical system in your home. If the power grid is functional, the sump pump uses the electricity from the power company. If the electrical system fails, the sump pump battery backup “kicks on” almost instantaneously, ensuring that your primary sump pump continues to do its job even though the power is out.
Other advantages to a sump pump batter backup system:
- sticking to a one-pump approach makes installation easier
- battery backup systems do not crowd the sump pit like helper pump systems, making access to the pumps for repair or replacement much easier
The risk with a battery backup system for the primary sump pump (as opposed to a helper pump system with a smaller battery backup) is that we’re assuming the primary pump can handle the volume of water in the sump pit all by itself. If there is a situation where your home is inundated with water and the main pump can’t manage the volume, a helper pump could clear more water faster (assuming of course that the power grid is up).
Which Sump Pump Backup System is Best?
Ultimately, choosing the right system for your home comes down to your individual needs. It’s a good idea to consider the flooding history in your area, the strength of your local power grid, the space available in the sump pit, and of course your budget.
Whatever you decide, it’s wise to consider investing in a backup system for your sump pump.